Types of Disasters
As owners of real property, we are exposed to a number of serious risks that extend beyond cleanup and reconstruction. The following are a few of the natural disasters that have affected council camps:
- Landslides – Landslides can occur after a significant fire or a rainstorm. Soil or rock landslides can destroy buildings and campsites. In addition, water distribution systems may become compromised, resulting in contamination of water supplies at a later date. Structures that appear to be OK might be structurally weakened and fail under later stress. Degradation of lakes and streams may also be an issue, as silt, unrestrained by vegetation, is transported downslope.
- Hurricanes and Floods – Beyond cleaning up fallen trees and building debris, there is risk of mold propagation within building walls. Mold is a somewhat benign irritant, but it can be toxic in some circumstances. Utilities, such as water and sewage, may be weakened but not destroyed, resulting in health concerns that crop up later. Piles of debris that appear stable may not be so and can injure campers as they climb over them. Trees that are weakened may become “widow makers” as they slowly die and the root system decomposes.
- Storms, Wind Storms, and Tornadoes – The lingering effects of wind and water can be just as dangerous as what you might find with a hurricane or a flood.
A rush to rebuild a damaged facility without taking the opportunity to step back and look at the mission, purpose, and use of the entire operation is a mistake. Because many of the BSA’s properties are functionally challenged by years of growth followed by years of decline, no council can afford to re-create problems rather than solve them.
What Can Be Done?
Preplanning – Gather a team representing properties, programs, and finance to review a few possible scenarios in case of a disaster at one of your properties. Develop a general disaster recovery plan to prepare the council. Consider evacuation plans, shutdown procedures (provided there is time), and recovery. Review and understand your property and business interruption insurance. Know who your contacts are with local police, fire service, forest service, county or regional disaster services, and other agencies. Know how to contact your insurance agent. Identify resources and know who to contact at the National Council. Identify other resources to support your program, including alternate camps, field kitchens, or sanitary facilities. Remember that when a disaster such as a fire or flood occurs, major changes occur. Frequently we assume that we can just “fix the damage” and things will be like they were before. This is rarely the case. Preplanning will help you proceed with recovery in an orderly fashion, address unexpected problems, and prepare for the changes that will follow a disaster.
The Properties Department is a resource for you. Note that no website article can fully capture the complexity of issues that a council might face after a natural disaster. However, you may contact the national office (972-580-7826 or Fixcamp@scouting.org ) to request a site evaluation by our technical team at no cost to the council. The team will work with your risk management committee to evaluate and mitigate the lingering and hidden risks associated with a natural disaster.